<p>Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino's &quot;Inglourious Basterds.&quot;</p>

Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."

Credit: Weinstein Company

'Inglourious Basterds' takes first honors from LA Film Critics

Complete list of LAFCA 2009 winners as it happens

 

Arguably the second most prestigious critics group in the country, the Los Angeles Film Critics announced the first half of their 2009 award recipients this afternoon.  Commentary and the complete list of winners by 2:30 PM PST.

First Announcement:

MUSIC/SCORE:

T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, "Crazy Heart"

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

Reaction: Two great winners.  Here's hoping this begins a strong campaign for Desplat to win the Oscar for Best Original Score.

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

Philip Ivey, "District 9"

Runner-up: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, "Avatar"

Reaction: Both are worthy recipients, but the body of work for "Avatar" is much more impressive than "District 9."   

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Christian Berger, "The White Ribbon"

Runner-up: Barry Ackroyd, "The Hurt Locker"

Reaction: A bit perplexed. Black and white cinematography should not be rewarded just because no one does it anymore. "Ribbon's" look was not that impressive. Oh, well.  Can't argue with Ackroyd as runner up for "Locker" though.  This and Boston's award earlier today might be some nice momentum for his Oscar nod hopes.

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Mo'Nique, "Precious"

Runner-up: Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"

Reaction: Doesn't matter to me whether she believes in campaigning or not.  Mo'Nique hands down gave one of the best performances of the year and deserves every honor she gets.  Happy to see the love for the talented and classy Ms. Kendrick as well.

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Runner-up: Peter Capaldi, "In the Loop"

Reaction: No disagreement here. Happy to see Capaldi in the gem "In The Loop" get some recognition.  Hands down one of the best films of the year.

 

SCREENPLAY:

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up in the Air”

Runner-up: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, "In the Loop"

Reaction: Great to see more love for "Loop."  "Air" will make this pundit's top ten, but not sure it's the best screenplay of the year.  Still, the film's strength is in the writing and acting, so can't really fault it though.

 

DOCUMENTARY/NON-FICTION FILM:

"The Beaches of Agnès" and "The Cove" (tie)

 

DOUGLAS E. EDWARDS INDEPENDENT/EXPERIMENTAL FILM/VIDEO:

C.W. Winter and Anders Edstrom, "The Anchorage"


 As the season heats up, look for breaking awards season news and commentary daily on Awards Campaign.  For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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<p>Guy Pearce in Kathryn Bigelow's acclaimed drama &quot;The Hurt Locker.&quot;</p>

Guy Pearce in Kathryn Bigelow's acclaimed drama "The Hurt Locker."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'Hurt Locker' dominates Boston Film Critics Awards

But, 'Star Trek' and 'District 9' gets some love too

Oscar underdog "The Hurt Locker" dominated this year's Boston Society of Film Critic's year ends awards winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. 

Not as surprising, Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz pulled out wins in the Best Supporting categories for "Precious" and "Inglourious Basterds" respectively.  Some pleasant surprises included "Star Trek" tying "Precious" for Best Ensemble and "District 9's" Neill Blomkamp winning for Best New Filmmaker.  Strangely, critic's favorites "An Education" and "Up in the Air" were shut out for the honors.

A full list of the winners are below.

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<p>Optimus Prime has quite a battle on his hands if he thinks he can beat &quot;Avatar&quot;&nbsp;for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.</p>

Optimus Prime has quite a battle on his hands if he thinks he can beat "Avatar" for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Star Trek,' 'Transformers 2' and 'Avatar' battling for Visual Effects Oscar

14 flicks will try to upset James Cameron's CG breakthrough

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 15 semi-finalists for the Achievement in Visual Effects for the 82nd Academy Awards today.  The contenders are as follows:


“Angels & Demons”
“Avatar”
“Coraline”
“Disney’s A Christmas Carol”
“District 9”
“G-Force”
“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
“Sherlock Holmes”
“Star Trek”
“Terminator Salvation”
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
“2012”
“Watchmen”
“Where the Wild Things Are”

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<p>Reunited and it feels so good?&nbsp;Sigourney Weaver and director James Cameron at a publicity event for &quot;Avatar&quot;&nbsp;in Germany earlier this week.</p>

Reunited and it feels so good? Sigourney Weaver and director James Cameron at a publicity event for "Avatar" in Germany earlier this week.

Credit: AP Photo/Markus Schrieber

Critics eat crow on 'Avatar' across the web

A sampling of some early reviews of James Cameron's latest


Many a writer, reviewer or journalist must feel like they just had three helpings of Thanksgiving dinner after eating a smorgasbord full of crow following the first screenings of James Cameron's "Avatar" yesterday.  This prognosticator is certainly one of them and boy, after all those carbs it's time to hit the treadmill (who knew birds were so fattening?). 

Over at 20th Century Fox's Century City lot executives and no doubt Cameron himself must be breathing a big sigh of relief and rejoicing over what should be a monster take at the box office.  Yes, those concerns over the pricey "Avatar" never breaking even will be distant memories soon.  And an intriguing awards season awaits (you may want to shush that sequel talk for awhile Mr. Cameron, that won't go over well with Academy voters). 

HitFix's own Drew McWeeny is waxing over his own review as he travels across the country. In the meantime, here's a sampling from some of the first round of critiques across the web.


David Poland, Movie City News:

"Simply, the hype is true. You've never seen anything like it before"
"As with Titanic, there is an energy rollercoaster in this 2 hour, 43 minute movie. But Cameron is who he is because he is the ultimate master of the third act. Whatever you have experienced up until then, the third act of Avatar will grab you by the heart and balls, yank hard, and not let go until you are dismissed… AVATAR… Written and Directed by James Cameron." More

Kris Tapley, In Contention:


"Wait, let me not undersell that.  This is the most amazing cinematic experience I’ve ever had.  There are, admittedly, story elements that give one pause.  The film isn’t total perfection (though I’d argue this is a very mature, thematically beautiful screenplay from James Cameron).  The filmmaker can’t help himself in a number of instances that are too on the nose." More

Todd McCarthy, Variety:


"the picture is a triumph; it's all of a piece, in no way looking like a vague mish-mash of live-action, CGI backdrops, animation, performance capture and post-production effects. On top of that, the 3D is agreeably unemphatic, drawing the viewer into the action without calling attention to itself. The third dimension functions as an enhancement, not a raison d'être, so the film will look perfectly fine without it." More

Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood:


"The central section of the movie, as Sully becomes a warrior and falls in love with Neytiri, is sheer magic. Cameron sweeps you into deep canyons on the back of the swooping banshees, past “floating” mountains and cascading waterfalls. This would have been impossible to do with any existing technology and yes, Cameron has changed the game, yet again, and has reset the cinema standard that must now be met." More

S.T. Vanarsdale, Movieline:

"Listen, there’s really no other way to put this: Avatar is the most extraordinary visual accomplishment I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. At the same time, it’s the most forgettable visual accomplishment I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. To the degree Cameron has revolutionized motion-capture, art direction and camera movement here — literally creating Pandora from scratch in his computer — the achievement is simply too much to process. He (and the studio, of course) will naturally tell you to watch it again, and if you have the time and inclination to spend three more hours going through it, be my guest. I don’t. It will influence technicians for generations — and viewers for about a weekend. Which may be enough." More

Todd Gilchrist, Cinematical:


"Indeed, it's Cameron's conception of a world interconnected via nature that resonates the most strongly, not because it's touchy-feely or otherwise simplistic, but because it's a promising (although sometimes underdeveloped) examination of the one in which we already live. The Na'vi celebrate and literally connect with the other creatures on Pandora, and there's an exhilarating discovery for audiences of the way these warrior clans utilize and acknowledge the plant and animal-based resources of the planet; that Cameron adds a tendril-like ponytail for the natives to literally connect to their conquests and even completely ignored their "gods" or ancestors may seem excessive, but it allows for an appreciation of the respect earned and shared between the various creatures that, quite frankly, is never dealt with or even actively ignored by other filmmakers operating on Cameron's level of spectacle." More

For a snapshot at "Avatar's" increasingly strong Oscar prospects, click here.  Look for more coverage on "Avatar" as it develops on Awards Campaign and HitFix.

"Avatar" opens nationwide in traditional theaters, 3-D theaters and on IMAX 3-D on Dec. 18.

As the season heats up, look for breaking awards season news and commentary daily on Awards Campaign.  For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.







 

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<p>&nbsp;Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor of 'The Ghost Writer'</p>

 Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor of 'The Ghost Writer'

Credit: Summit

Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer' ready to thrill in the U.S.

Summit Entertainment to distribute another potential awards contender

If anyone thinks Summit Entertainment's dip in the prestige filmmaking world with "The Hurt Locker" was a one shot wonder they're sadly mistaken.  The company that has lived off the massive success of "The Twilight Saga" announced today it will distribute Roman Polanski's new thriller "The Ghost Writer" to North American audiences in the first half of 2010.  

Currently, under house arrest in Switzerland and awaiting possible extradition to the United States,the visionary behind such classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" has been finishing up the thriller that features Ewan McGregor, Olivia Wilde, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall.

According to a release from Summit, the synopsis is as follows:

["The Ghost Writer"] tells the story of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), who is holed up on an island off the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. in midwinter, writing his memoirs.  When his long-standing aide drowns, a professional ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is sent out to help him finish the book.  The anonymous ghost writer is quickly drawn into a political and sexual intrigue involving Lang’s wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) and his aide (Kim Cattrall).  Hanging over Lang is the threat of a war crimes trial and a mysterious secret from his past that threatens to jeopardize international relations.  The cast also includes Jim Belushi, Robert Pugh and Tom Wilkinson.  Alexandre Desplat scored the film.

On a purely speculative basis, it would not be surprising to see "Ghost Writer" make its debut at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Such a move would be a political p.r. move regarding Polanski's case (which may not be resolved by even then) and a boon for the film's commercial prospects.

Additionally, this is the sort of prestige bait investment that can help Summit on two fronts.  First, it shows the company is still committed to quality fare such as this year's Best Picture contender "The Hurt Locker" and "The Brothers Bloom."  Second, in theory it will continue to assure up and coming filmmakers that the mini-major can be a studio where their creative voices are heard.  

And in the long run, don't discount "Ghost Writer" as potential awards fair for the 2011 season.  As recently as 2003 Polanski won the Academy Award for Best Director for "The Pianist" and the film is based on a best-selling novel by acclaimed writer Robert Harris who also co-wrote the screenplay with the filmmaker.

Combined with Polanski's continuing legal drama, it certainly makes "The Ghost Writer" one of the more intriguing releases and stories for 2010.

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<p>Zoe Saldana at a crucial moment in James Cameron's &quot;Avatar.&quot;</p>

Zoe Saldana at a crucial moment in James Cameron's "Avatar."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Avatar rocks the Oscar race, but can it win it all?

Battle of the exes: Cameron vs. Bigelow for Best Director

From London to Los Angeles, the first screenings of James Cameron's long awaited Sci-Fi opus "Avatar" had many pundits, critics and journalists eating crow.  In fact, some of us should be so stuffed we can't speak.  Not only is the film anything but a cheesy disaster, it is instead a stunning spectacle that should become a monster hit and a legit Best Picture contender.

That's right, you just saw the words "legit Best Picture contender" associated with a film this writer was seriously unimpressed with after seeing 20 plus minutes at Comic-Con this past summer.  Needless to say, the whole epic adventure -- all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it -- is a filmmaking achievement that will be hard for the Academy to ignore. It's not only in for Best Picture, but it should pit Cameron against his ex-wife, "The Hurt Locker's" Kathryn Bigelow, for Best Director (can you hear Baldwin's jokes now?).  Many in the industry are rooting for Bigelow to be the first female director winner in Oscar history, but Cameron's work here should make it an incredibly close race.

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<p>Henry Selick's &quot;Coraline&quot; is poised to land an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.</p>

Henry Selick's "Coraline" is poised to land an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

Credit: Focus Features

Breaking: 'Coraline's' Henry Selick readying three new projects

Acclaimed filmmaker ready to move on after leaving Laika

 

Many believe it's a forgone conclusion that Pixar's "Up" will win the Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards, but if any film could provide an upset it's "Coraline."  A unique critical and box office stop motion hit, the Henry Selick directed adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel has a strong fanbase within the industry.  If -- and it's a big if -- "Up" gets a traditional Best Picture nomination as expected, it wouldn't be that surprising for some voters to conceivably change their vote in the Animated Film category for "Coraline."

After landing an impressive 10 nominations for this year's Annie Awards (arguably more prestigious to animators than the Oscars), Selick jumped on the phone this week to talk about the success of "Coraline" and his future projects.

"I went all over the charts, but generally was assuming far less," Selick says regarding "Coraline's" $75 million take. "Honestly, you don't know. You know what you have to make to convince people to make another one.  People catch on like viruses and there is no explaining [what they will and won't like]. We're just glad we caught it at the right time."

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<p>Tom Ford is on the edge of his seat discussing &quot;A Single Man.&quot;</p>

Tom Ford is on the edge of his seat discussing "A Single Man."

Credit: HitFix

Tom Ford and Matthew Goode divulge the secrets of 'A Single Man'

Watch: Always candid Goode on sharing a spray tan with Colin Firth

 

Having already filled out my top ten films of the year list, it was somewhat surprising that Tom Ford's "A Single Man" made the cut.  A moving and powerful picture when I caught the drama's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, it was unclear how long an impression the picture would make or whether there would be numerous films that would jump ahead of it on what is obviously an incredibly subjective ranking of the year's best.  But in the months that have followed, so much of the picture including Colin Firth's revelatory performance and the exacting detail of Ford's direction have made it hard not to salute.

About five weeks ago I happily sat down with the entire cast including Colin Firth (which you can watch here), Matthew Goode, "About a Boy's" all grown up Nicholas Hoult and director Tom Ford.  

Goode has always been a studio publicists nightmare and a journalist's dream.  Ever since first meeting the Brit while he was doing promoting "Match Point," Goode has been incredibly frank and usually hilarious with his on set stories and candid revelations about how he really feels about something.  I'll never forget the horror on a publicist's face during a "Watchmen" set visit when Goode complained about being stuck in Vancouver for so long with nothing to do.  Word is Goode was a bit more conservative while doing press for his upcoming comedy "Leap Year" this past weekend, but he was certainly his old self for "A Single Man."  It must have been quite an experience for youngster Nicholas Hoult who joined him for a day of press.  Check out the interview below and enjoy.



As for the man behind the Oscar contender, Ford was clearly, and disappointingly, on message during our sit down.  The press were instructed not to ask about fashion or his career as an iconic designer -- just about the movie -- which was not only silly, but did him a disservice.  Ford is one of the few to make the rare jump from a creative world outside the movie industry to foster an impressive work of cinema.  To ignore his own creative beginnings and evolution as an artist as he transitions to another art form reeks of insecurity.  In any event, enjoy Ford's discussion on making "A Single Man" below.




"A Single Man" opens in limited release this Friday and is well worth seeing when it comes to a theater near you.
 

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<p>After seeing how many LAFCA&nbsp;winners have won the Best Picture Oscar the past 15 years, maybe George Clooney is thinking it's OK to let another film share the spotlight?&nbsp; </p>

After seeing how many LAFCA winners have won the Best Picture Oscar the past 15 years, maybe George Clooney is thinking it's OK to let another film share the spotlight? 

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

How many critic's groups awards can Oscar frontrunner 'Up in the Air' win?

Plus: A rundown of the latest Oscar contenders

Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" has already won the Best Picture Award from the National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics, but three of the biggest guns and Oscar influencers are being announced within the next week.  The big question is: can "Up in the Air" go for the sweep?  Well, yes, but most likely no.

Los Angeles Film Critics - Sunday, Dec. 10
Contenders: "Up in the Air," "Hurt Locker," "500 Days of Summer" and "A Serious Man"
Lowdown: Intriguingly, LAFCA members haven't picked an Oscar winner for Best Picture since "Schindler's List" in 1993.  So, if you're Paramount you may actually be rooting not to win this one.  However, this is organization most likely the group to reward "The Hurt Locker" or a Coen's "A Serious Man."  We're betting on the former, but our upset winner? The love letter to downtown LA, "500 Days of Summer." 

New York Film Critics Circle - Monday, Dec. 11
Contenders: "A Serious Man," "Precious," "Hurt Locker" and "A Single Man"
Lowdown: Unlike their West Coast peers, the New York Critics tend to be all over the place.  Over the past nine years their top prize has matched Oscar's twice ("The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and "No Country for Old Men"), but four of their winners weren't even nominated for Best Picture ("United 93," "Far From Heaven," "Mulholland Drive," "Topsy-Turvey"). Moreover, they rarey duplicate LAFCA although always insist it isn't intentional (uh-huh).  It's gut, but we're guessing "A Serious Man" or "A Single Man" wins here.  This group likes to make a statement and both would certainly do that.

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<p>Madonna walks the red carpet at the New York City Museum of Modern Art premiere of Tom Ford's &quot;A&nbsp;Single Man.&quot;</p>

Madonna walks the red carpet at the New York City Museum of Modern Art premiere of Tom Ford's "A Single Man."

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Oscar Watch: Madonna walks the 'Single Man' red carpet for buddy Tom Ford

Plus: Adam Shankman's tweets scaring Academy and another honor for Jeff Bridges


Tom Ford got some major star power on the red carpet Monday night for the New York premiere of his directorial debut "A Single Man."  None other than Madonna, who rarely attends such functions, strutted her stuff to help bring attention to Ford's impressive drama at its Museum of Modern Art screening.  Considering how much the Weinstein's attention appears to be centered on "Nine," it was a nice paparazzi boost for the film which opens in limited release this Friday in Los Angeles and New York.  Expected Best Actor nominee Colin Firth, Best Supporting Actress contender Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult were all in the house and, as you'd guess, all in fashionable black.  Of course, Ford wouldn't have to be worrying about a marketing campaign for "Single Man" if he'd gone with other suitors, but you can't knock loyalty and a ten year friendship with Harvey.  This is one pundit hoping the film pulls off its own miracle and finds a wide audience.

In other news...

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